Successful Innovation in the Internet of Things: Event Summary


On 16th June, our final online conference took place: Successful Innovation in the Internet of Things.

This keynote event marked the culmination of Pitch-In, a three-year programme focussed on solving problems related to innovation, skills and the barriers to adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT). Funded by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund, it has brought together the universities of Sheffield, Cambridge, Newcastle and Oxford and a range of external partners. Its aim has been to understand and stimulate collaboration between academia and stakeholders across industry, commerce and the public and third sectors.

Attendees were able to find out how collaborators have demonstrated the value of the Internet of Things, particularly in support of the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

The event outlined major outcomes from nearly 70 projects involving 80 partners across four key thematic areas – Manufacturing, Energy, Smart Cities, and Health and Wellbeing – along with foundational work that spans these themes.

The Pitch-In programme has sought to encourage and facilitate Knowledge Exchange (KE) around IoT innovation and adoption. The universities’ KE activities allow them to engage with the wider world to make a contribution to the economy and society, and, in return, receive inspiration and practical guidance to channel their research efforts.

The keynote highlighted various themes of Pitch-in’s work. The project as proposed targeted the concerns of the Industrial Strategy Green paper but was also in strong support for the subsequent White Paper (e.g. with Manufacturing and Energy major themes). A general ambition to “Make Value Apparent” was supported by its set of mini-projects. Significant themes in the programme of work were:

  • The overwhelmingly collaborative nature of the mini-projects, with over 80 external parties engaging in our mini-projects.

  • The potential and practicality of low-cost IoT approaches. The low-cost theme started in the manufacturing but has spread to other sector work.

  • The critical role of demonstrators generally as a means of de-risking and engaging stakeholders, and also as a means for demonstrating how to achieve forms of resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic (and future ones).

  • Engagement with real systems as a means of demonstrating practicality and cost effectiveness of IoT adoption.

  • A demonstration of how legacy systems can be adapted effectively to harness IoT, for example, remote monitoring and control of a paint manufacturing plant. Dealing with legacy systems is a critical challenge and major opportunity for IoT.

  • The importance of end-user engagement and cross-discipline communications to ensure fitness for purpose and convince stakeholders of complex problems, and the development of methods and approaches to engage with harder-to-reach stakeholders, for example, vulnerable citizens.

  • Development of new business models for IoT use, e.g. monetising IP from components in wider systems.

  • The importance of developing strong regional ecosystems and how the universities supported their development via support for communications, internships, building partnerships using mini-projects, and leveraging existing fora and technical infrastructures to advantage.

  • How the universities have sought to develop and exploit skills within their ecosystems, by complementing existing training and deploying developed expertise outside their heartlands, for example, leveraging urban ioT experience to develop effective ioT environmental IoT systems for parklands and large-scale rural landscapes.

  • The project had been in significant alignment with the UK Industrial Strategy’s concerns. Going forward, the Pitch-In team (and others working in IoT) can advantageously align with more recent statements of HMG priorities (for example, the Build Back Better initiative and the Prime Minister’s 10 point Green Plan). John would return to this in more detail in his later talk “Towards a Connected Resilient Society”, where the Pitch-In team would seek to exploit the resources (data sets, technical laboratory and engagement facilities, and collaborative relationships) that had been developed over the programme of work.

The above themes appeared in the presentations that followed, you can watch a recording of the event below.

Session 1

  • 00:00:00 – Professor John A Clark, University of Sheffield – Welcome and introduction

  • 00:26:38 Dr Alexandra Brintrup, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge – IoT on a Shoestring – low cost automation solutions for adoption of digital manufacturing

  • 00:41:23 Dr Boyang Song, University of Sheffield – IoT and Predictive Maintenance for a Legacy Manufacturing System

  • 00:50:07 – Dr Oktay Cetinkaya, University of Sheffield – Antennas – automated network evaluation in dense urban settings

  • 00:58:59 – Professor Yit Arn Teh, Newcastle University – Getting IoT Out of the City – reaching out to address rural needs

  • 01:08:42 Professor Belinda Lennox, University of Oxford -Bridging Technology and Health Needs – spanning a communications divide to achieve impact

Session 2

  • 00:00:35 – Professor David Howey, University of Oxford – Batteries and Big Data

  • 00:12:44 – Dr Frank Tietze, University of Cambridge -Managing the Use of IP in IoT – how to charge for component service use in an IoT system

  • 00:27:04 – Professor John A Clark, University of Sheffield – Skills Development for the IoT Ecosystem

  • 00:40:18 Professor Savvas Papagiannidis, Newcastle University -Engaging with a Regional IoT Ecosystem During the Pandemic

Session 3

  • 00:00:18 – Sylvia Lu, UK5G, u-blox, Institution of Engineering and Technology in conversation with Richard Foggie, Knowledge Transfer Network -Whither IoT? – an overview of the role of IoT in the 5G era

  • 00:18:38 – Professor John A Clark, University of Sheffield – Towards a connected resilient society

Following a well-attended event, we would like to thank everyone involved including chair and programme lead, Professor John A Clark; keynote speaker, Sylvia Lu; interviewer, Richard Foggie and speakers, Dr Alexandra Brintrup, Dr Boyang Song, Dr Oktay Cetinkaya, Professor Yit Arn Teh, Professor Belinda Lennox, Professor David Howey, Dr Frank Tietze and Professor Savvas Papagiannidis.

For further information on Pitch-In, please visit the website. This will continue to be a source of knowledge, resources and learning related to IoT innovation and collaboration: